[OPE-L:5488] Re: On confusions due to consumption

Paul Cockshott (wpc@cs.strath.ac.uk)
Fri, 19 Sep 1997 05:39:25 -0700 (PDT)

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> In Costarican banana production you have a complete capitalist
> organization: wage-labor, science and technology applications, class
> struggle, american multinationals, prices are world market prices,
> competition, etc. etc.

Of course one can have capitalist agriculture, but the fondness of
economists for 'corn economies' seems to be something of a hangover
from the early days of capitalism when agriculture was still the
typical economic activity. In a developed capitalist country this
is far from the case.

> A second point, linked with this, is: Its not clear to me in your
> posts if you maitain that *value* is determined by *use-value*
> magnitudes (like "net product") or by social labor-time spent. Do you
> think that this is Marx's theory? Why? Would the determination of
> value by labor-time be an "absolute" principle in Marx's theory or has
> it "exceptions"?

The value of product x is the amount of labour that society requires,
expended both directly and indirectly, to produce 1 unit of net output
of x.

As such it has dimension labour seconds per unit of x, and relates both
to labour time and to the physical units of the product. If we alter the
unit by which we measure the product from grams to kilos for example then
we alter the value. If we change the sign of the net product, then the
sign of the value will also change.

Determination of value by labour time is a matter of definition in Marx's
theory just as much as the definition of horsepower in Watt's theory
is in terms of foot pounds per second.

Whether prices correspond to values is of course a different question,
and the answer is that on average they do, in the sense that they are
highly correlated. But like all stochastic relationships this involves
a distribution of observations with some prices deviating significantly
from values. Some of these deviations are, from a theoretical viewpoint
just random, others have some systematic basis - most evidently those
that relate to some form of rent phenomena. Correlation between prices
and values declines in circumstances where production of a product
can not be freely expanded by transfering labour to its production.

The famine examples you gave were, you suggested, the results of random
disturbance to normal conditions of production. Under these circumstances
one would expect correlation between price and value to be low.

It is perhaps worth mentioning, that my aim in political economy
is to come to a scientifically accurate theory. This is somewhat different
from the aims of some participants who wish to 'reproduce Marx's results'.
Whilst there may be some dispute about just what his results were, this
is objective differs from my own. If certain of Marx's hypotheses turn out
to be ill supported then I do not feel any obligation to them.